The hardest part of being me is being patient with people. While I have a great many faults, my biggest is expecting other people to be as quick and concise as I when telling a story or relating an experience.
Perhaps my training as a writer should make me much more prone to meandering from point to point as I relate a story, but the truth is I am more of the Jim Thompson school or writing than that of Stephen King. I prefer to let the facts speak for themselves, hoping the reader (or listener) has the presence of mind to fill in the blanks.
I have never been a fan of leading people by the hand if it can be avoided, but there is a happy medium between not enough information and too much. I like to give someone just enough information to find the value for themselves.
When I listen to other people describe something, whether it is the day they have just had, or a trip they took, or a book they read, I often wrestle with the urge to slap them and hope that pushes them toward the resolution of their tale that much faster.
I am not a details guy. I am, and have always been, and end result guy. I think of things, then I do them. Other people think of things, then they figure out what they mean, perhaps even using different colors to present the idea to their mind’s eye, hanging drapes, buying furniture, and living with the idea for what seems like eons BEFORE they get to the point of taking action. This frustrates me in ways that I cannot possibly explain.
Don’t get me wrong, I pay attention to the details. I take in everything, but I don’t dwell on minutae if it DOES NOT promote resolution or play a part in it.
In my professional life, it has gotten me in a great deal of trouble. While working for the marketing department of a major retailer back in the early 90s, I lead a small team of writers. Part of my role was attending meetings with the heads of all the other departments. A great many times, these meetings were just a waste of my time. Many times the principles of a particular project didn’t even have any information any good writer needs to fullfil his role in in the marketing platform. A writer needs to know “who, what, where, when, and how.” That’s it. A good writer can take that information and turn it into a jewel of modern advertising. Without those simple facts, nothing can really be done and any meeting is simply a mental circle jerk of self-congratulating middle managers. I tried to avoid those, but I couldn’t avoid all of them.
One particular day I was called to a meeting by the assistant to the head of the public relations department to “announce” a new project. “Great,” I say, “What are the particulars?”
“Well, we know its going to be some kind of event, we just don’t know what yet. And we know that we want to do it sometime in the next six months, we just don’t know when. So we just thought we’d get you guys started on the project so we don’t waste time!” the assistant said.
“Let me see if I understand you…” I said, trying to keep an even tone in my voice. “You want my team to get started developing a marketing platform for a project that has NO clearly defined goal, no date, and absolutely no information as to what the project will entail?”
“Well, we just thought we would get you started…” she said, realizing now how premature the meeting was.
“You know, this poor planning from your department is not new, but its gotta stop. You can’t expect <name of pr director> to shove a blank piece of coal up his ass and expect us to pull out a diamond no matter how much time you give us. Call me when you have your shit together!”
With that I walked out. Hours later I got called into the office of the VP of Marketing where the VP and the creative directer, trying to hold a straight face, asked me if I had indeed told the assistant to “shove a piece of coal up your bosses ass!”
After repeating exactly what I said, they both laughed and asked me to refrain from making such, while funny, inappropriate comments to the PR department. I lasted another half a year or so, but I eventually got tired of playing the game.
Of course, from that point forward, the PR department NEVER called a meeting without having their shit together. While my methods might leave a little to be desired, at least they are effective.